Gentleman Jim is the story of Jim Bloggs, an imaginative toilet cleaner who, dissatisfied with his station in life, devotes his time to envisioning a world beyond it. His walls are lined with books like Out in the Silver West, The Boys Book of Pirates and Executive Opportunities, which provide fodder for his ruminations on career change. Encouraged by his wife, also eager to incorporate more adventure into her life, Jim sets out to bring these dreams to fruition by accumulating various accoutrements, only to discover that the life of an executive, an artist, or a cowboy is more complicated and costly than it appears.
Jim's childlike understanding of the world that surrounds him is enhanced by Raymond Briggs' subtle and inventive illustration. Fantasies are portrayed as organic clouds that move between and overlap outlined panels of his reality, and myopic Jim is drawn smaller and softer than the policemen and bureaucrats interested in impeding upon his search for adventure. As he begins to infringe more seriously on the law, the city workers and their speech boxes become increasingly angular, much like the rigid rules and regulations restricting his sincere quest. With this playful style, Briggs expertly transforms common feelings of inadequacy into an endearing and enjoyable experience that speaks across generations, concluding with an optimistic implication that even a misfortunate outcome can be better than no change at all.